Thank you Ladies and Gentleman, members of the Pioneer Academy of Entertainment. It's been quite a year for showbiz here in Cranbrook. Please continue to direct your attention to the big white page with all the lettering while we view each of the contenders. The nominees for Best Production of 1899 in the town of Cranbrook B.C., in order of appearance are:
The Georgia Minstrels - March, 1899: Performing in Leask's Hall - an unfinished building with neither heat nor stage facilities - this group presents fine musical selections, notable specialty numbers and up-to-date jokes. Charles Walley's whistling is superb. Spoiler: These are not the real Georgia Minstrels, a first-rate group of black performers who toured the continent for many years (eventually appearing in Cranbrook), but rather a group of white guys from, it would appear, Medicine Hat.
Miss E. Pauline Johnson - April, 1899: A crowd favourite. Performing in the Presbyterian Church (one of the few suitable buildings with walls and a roof) this daughter of a head chief of the Mohawks proves "graceful in movement, pleasing in tone and charming in appearance. Her recitations bringing to mind sparkling waters and overhanging branches witnessed during a peaceful paddle in a bark canoe." Partial Spoiler: her father was a Mohawk chief of mixed ancestry and her mother an English immigrant. Her poetry continues to draw attention up to the present day.
The Metropolitan Opera Co. - May 1899: A troupe of 30 presents "La Mascotte" to a large crowd in Miner's Hall, an unfinished building with neither heat nor stage facilities. Critics report, "The singing is particularly pleasing, the chorus very good and, as to their physical attractions, well - that is a mere matter of form." Some of the local young male opera lovers travel to see them again in Ft. Steele." Spoiler: this is not the real New York Metropolitan Opera Co. It seems they rarely, if ever, appear in young pioneer western towns in the Canadian Rockies.
The Lyceum Theater Co. - July, 1899: Panned by local audiences and critics alike in presentations of Hamlet (neither artistic nor pleasing) and a comedy (rank from beginning to end). Spoiler: This is not the real New York Lyceum Theater Co. but rather an unknown group that not surprisingly disappears into permanent obscurity following a performance in a young pioneer town in the Canadian Rockies.
Walter L. Main Fashion Plate Show and Lil Kerslake's Pig Circus - August 1899: The first circus of note to play Cranbrook. Joe Berris' trained thoroughbred horses, sixty-three in number, perform in "rings upon rings and platforms upon platforms." The Lil Kerslake pigs keep the audience screaming with laughter. Critics call it "A good, clean, first-class entertainment." Non-Spoiler: This really was the Walter Main/Lil Kerslake circus, a top-notch extravaganza that toured the continent for many years. Spoiler: Due to delays the circus was unable to provide the promised street parade before the performance and sadly the obviously unwell circus giant died a few days later in Ft. McLeod.
The New Porcelain Bathtub at McFarlane's Barber Shop - August, 1899: The only one of its kind in the East Kootenay and a real crowd pleaser. Not actually a performance but certainly worth a mention. Good clean entertainment at its best.
Professor Paul Boloun - August 1899: A trio of male entertainers give an excellent show at a somewhat more complete Miner's Hall. The Professor is an accomplished artist on various musical instruments while the Chinese, Irish and Dutch characterizations of his partners prove extremely funny. The inclusion of a phonograph and shadowgraphs adds to the entertainment. Spoiler: Even funnier if you're not Chinese, Irish or Dutch.
Miss Mariella LaDell - October, 1899: A graduate of the Philadelphia School or Oratory, the evening of entertainment features such dramatic recitations as "Delsartean Posings of Human Existence" and "The Childhood of a Dead Pussy Cat." No Spoiler necessary.
And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, the winner of the Cranbrook 1899 Performance of the Year is ? just open this envelope ? well, this is a surprise. In an unprecedented move the Academy wishes to honour all of the nominees for their contributions in putting Cranbrook on the cultural map. Everyone's a winner.
"Wow ? Gosh ? Um ? There are so many people we want to ? Um ? I, we just want to ? whew ? Okay, here goes: A huge thank you to Col. James Baker for his incredible vision and belief in this town. To the Townsite Office for their organization and hard work ? um ? the CPR for bringing it all together. To all the people of Cranbrook; you guys kept it going right from the start. This is for you! For all the makers of birch bark canoes ? the people who write music and the designers of those really sweet little chorus girl costumes and, um ? our families of course (cue music). Thomas Edison for sure and our pals from the Lyceum Co ? wherever they are (music rises). To everyone who put up the tents and especially to all those cute little porkers hamming it up and hogging the spotlight. (General laughter, lights fade). Excuse me, but speaking of those pigs, they sure look like they could use a good bath ? and a shave for that matter. Plenty of room in the new tub! Whoa, somebody hold those horses ?(Cut).